Years ago a friend pointed out the obvious to me: when you worry, you live through your troubles at least one more time than is necessary. Since then I’ve tried to limit the pain, if and when it comes, to the moment itself, not adding to it by fantasizing about it in advance.
One thing that has helped with that is learning to recognize a worrisome event in advance, and then making a point afterwards of assessing the situation afterwards. It almost always turns out that the worry I indulged in (or would have indulged in) was way out of proportion to the actual trouble when it came. Go through this exercise enough times and you will worry less, simply because you come to understand that it isn’t worth the grief.
This past week there has been a perfect opportunity to rehearse that attitude, imperfectly met. A few weeks ago a friend offered us a very nice 1986 Volvo 240DL wagon at a very good price, so that Chris could have his first car, and we gratefully accepted. Since the car is in Charlottesville, Virginia and isn’t running reliably at the moment, we will have to tow it from there to here.
While arranging for a U-Haul towing trailer, I discovered that the hitch on our Suburban was not strong enough to pull car and trailer. The Suburban is capable of towing much more, so I decided to go ahead and get a heavy-duty hitch installed, for this and for future hauling jobs. I figured that U-Haul knew about these things, so I contacted the nearest hitch installation center (in Lexington), ordered a hitch that could handle anything the Suburban could pull, and made an appointment to have it installed last Friday, about ten days before we needed to leave to fetch the Volvo.
I left early Friday, intending to run a number of errands while in the Lexington area. I first drove north of Frankfort to Earth Tools, to buy a replacement plowshare for the plow attachment on our BCS tractor (we’d worn out the first). Then I drove over to Lexington, arriving at the U-Haul place at noon. I expected to spend about an hour there, then do a bit of grocery shopping, then leave town around 3pm in order to be home in time to get Chris and go to our weekly music gig at the Bread of Life Cafe.
After about two hours of sitting in their tiny, windowless break room, the hitch installation guy came in and asked me to come look at the Suburban. He explained that in order to get the old hitch off and insert the bolts for the new hitch, they had had to drop the gas tank by taking off the straps that attached it to the underside—and now they were having a heck of a time reattaching the gas tank. I nodded, and wished them luck.
After another hour, the fellow gave me the good news and the bad news. The good news was that they had finally gotten the gas tank reattached. The bad news was that the bolt holes for the old hitch did not match up with the new hitch; to install it they would need to drill new holes … and that would mean dropping the gas tank again, something they weren’t very enthusiastic about doing. They recommended I find a Chevy dealer who could do it.
I couldn’t blame them, so I thanked them for their efforts (which they didn’t charge me for, of course) and headed home, not having time to do any of my other errands. Now I had a Suburban without a hitch, and in the back both an old hitch and a new heavy duty hitch. It was late Friday, so there was no opportunity to call around and find out if anyone All the way home I wondered if I should have returned the new hitch before I left, since now I wasn’t sure I would be using it—whoever I found to do the job might want to do it with whatever hitch they carried. And I spent some time worrying about whether I’d be able to get everything arranged in time for the trip, which had to happen on the arranged day. By the time I got home, though, I had managed to put it all out of my mind, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it until Monday morning.
Monday morning I got ready to make phone calls. The sort of phone calls I dread making; I much prefer having done all my research and settled on a solution before picking up the phone. But it turned out easily enough—I called a dealership in Somerset, the closest town of reasonable size, and they said that they did install hitches and, although they didn’t have any in stock for my truck, they’d be glad to install the U-Haul hitch. It was about time for a major servicing on the Suburban, and the brakes were starting to squeal, so I arranged to have all that done as well. The appointment was set for 9am Tuesday.
I arrived about fifteen minutes late, and I don’t think they took my car in until 10am or so. From there it was a long, quiet wait; the staff was not particularly communicative about what was going on. Around 3pm a fellow came to tell me that (1) they wouldn’t be able to get everything done that day, (2) the remaining tasks were to fix the brakes, align the front end, and (!) put on the trailer hitch, and (3) they would probably be able to get the brakes or the alignment done by the end of the day, but not the hitch. So I asked them to do the brakes, and told them I’d be back first thing in the morning so that they could do the rest. I was tempted to worry and frustration again over the fact that another day had gone by and I still didn’t know if the hitch was installable, but I decided not to go there until the problem actually materialized.
This morning I was back at the shop by 8am, and at 9am a customer rep came to double-check that I wanted the front end aligned—and oh yes, the hitch was installed. In another hour I was on the road back home.
Now, I’ve been through this exercise so many times before that most of my reflecting on these events was done as they unfolded. But on the drive home I went over it all again, and realized that in fact the only part that might have been considered a waste was the time spent waiting for the U-Haul folks to fail to install the hitch. Everything else that happened needed to happen—ordering the hitch, fetching it, having it installed, and having the Suburban extensively serviced. Even if the uncertainty about the hitch installation had been resolved earlier, it wouldn’t have changed anything except to give me peace of mind earlier on, something I was perfectly able to give myself anyway.